TRADING standards officers are on the trail of rogue traders in Darlington.

Officers say the traders are always looking for a way of making money from unsuspecting members of the public, and see the Christmas season as a golden opportunity to fleece people.

This year, to warn people about the dangers of buying fake goods, Darlington's trading standards chiefs have issued advice to local people in a bid to prevent them being duped.

They say if the advice is not followed, it could lead to people buying dangerous products with little hope of compensation for the buyer if anything goes wrong.

The advice is:

l Avoid disappointment by only buying articles that you are certain are genuine.

l Be wary of buying goods at car boot sales, street markets, short-term team lease High Street shops, pubs and clubs.

l Poor quality labels and packaging on perfumes and cosmetics are often a clue that the contents are sub-standard. Some face fragrances may contain substances which can seriously damage the skin and eyes.

l If suspicious about the credentials of a watch, people should handle the strap. Fakes are normally lightweight and sound tinny when shaken.

l It is advisable to examine stitching and seams inside garments and shoes to look carefully for poor quality seals.

l Toys should be checked carefully for items which could become detached and choke or cut a child.

Officers say people may not realise that a recent report by the National Criminal Intelligence Service has shown that over 25 per cent of organised criminal groups and drug traffickers are involved in trading counterfeit goods.

If people have any queries they can contact Darlington Borough Council's trading standards department on (01325) 388582.